You know that feeling you’ve had for a while now that you and your
fellow board members just don’t see eye to eye? Well, the Marketing
Council has some good news: You’re not paranoid - they really do hate
That, at least, might have been a reasonable conclusion to draw from the
closing address of The Marketing Forum, at which a succession of senior
marketing folk stood up to parade their perceived inadequacies in the
eyes of their colleagues and investors.
Before an audience of 600 top-drawer client marketers, a depressing
parade of statistics, backed up by some impressive method acting,
portrayed marketers as a rather sad and misunderstood bunch.
The acting came in a sketch designed to highlight how badly other
business functions viewed marketing’s role. A gung-ho marketing director
delivered a jargon-littered presentation to a table of distinctly
unimpressed colleagues, all of whom had reservations about his
It was funny enough to get the delegates laughing, but the implications
are serious: research commissioned by The Marketing Forum showed that,
while 68% of marketers thought they were good or excellent at strategic
thinking, only 34% of other business functions felt the same way.
There wasn’t much comfort in other areas, either: 71% of marketers
believe they are good or excellent when it comes to ’results
orientation’, but just 36% of their colleagues agree.
By now the atmosphere was reminiscent of a support group for people with
terminally low self-esteem - quite a difficult feat to achieve with a
room full of ego-driven marketing folk.
Fortunately, there was better news from consumers. Research by Pegram
Walters International shows that the largest group of consumers is
generally positive about marketing and marketers (see box, right).
Perhaps more tellingly, it was suggested that consumers shouldn’t need
to know or care about marketing, any more than they should about the
machinery behind the stage at the theatre: the best advertisement for
marketing is great brands.
Where a poor image among consumers might be a problem is in recruitment:
few intelligent people will be willing to work in a discipline they
either don’t like or don’t understand.
But previous research published in Marketing shows that there are plenty
of graduates who want to take it up as a career. The problem lies in
specialist areas such as below-the-line, which does find it hard to
recruit sufficient graduates of the right calibre. Complacent, maybe,
but consumers seem to be the last people who need reminding that
In the City, things are rather trickier. While some major companies have
begun valuing brands and including them as an asset on the balance
sheet, few are good at including information about marketing in their
Perhaps that’s why, when City analysts were asked what aspects, apart
from financial details, they considered when evaluating a story,
marketing didn’t feature.
Reasons for this included the fact that marketing is considered part of
the overall strategy. As one analyst said: ’You look at the effect on
the bottom line, rather than the mechanics of how they did it.’ What did
matter was market share, as the one quantitative measure of success.
The fact is that marketing does not always get the recognition marketers
reckon it deserves.
John Stubbs, chief executive of The Marketing Council, put it like this:
’At any one time, other people in the business are quite likely not to
know what marketing is doing. In the media, marketing all too often
means a scam or a ploy. Politicians use it to mean promotion.’
By the end of the session, Stubbs and a panel of high-profile marketers,
including Mike Detsiny of the Marketing Society and Steve Cuthbert of
the Chartered Institute of Marketing, had called on everyone present to
do their bit to ’sell’ marketing to their workplace colleagues, the
City, and the public. Certainly the Marketing Council itself is planning
a series of initiatives to raise the profile of marketing.
Given that a recent Marketing poll found marketers ranked higher even
than journalists on the public’s ’hate list’, that may yet prove an
DO THEY MEAN US?
Consumers seem surprisingly positive about marketers, according to
research by Pegram Walters International. Here are the four groups into
which they split the consumers they spoke to:
- Generally Positives 32% The Players of the Game: The largest segment
of the population. Open and accepting of marketing. Neither opposed to
direct mail nor worried about the use (or misuse) of information.
- Nervous Positives 29% The nervous players. This is the second largest
segment. They are very similar to the Generally Positives, but are
genuinely concerned about possible misuse of personal information. This
group accepts and plays the game, but is suspicious about
- Junk Mail Rejecters 18% This cluster is largely negative to marketing,
largely because it does not understand its necessity (especially in the
area of sponsorship). This group’s views are largely influenced by its
dislike of inappropriate direct mail.
- Marketing Resisters 21% This group is, on the whole, cynical about
marketing. They feel that it pressures consumers unnecessarily and is
dishonest. However, they also hold marketers in high esteem: they are
seen to be very influential.